I should have partied more in college. And you should party more in college, while you still have time.
Author: 35-year-old African-American male.
Education: Penn State  – Basketball & Socializing; Business Management & Marketing
Occupation: Entrepreneur & Author; former pro athlete.
I attended Penn State’s Abington campus as a freshman (a commuter campus with no dorms or campus life — hated it) and Altoona (second-largest of PSU’s 23 branch campuses, 30 minutes from State College’s main campus) sophomore-senior. At Altoona, I paot the full campus experience of being away from home with few real responsibilities aside from getting good-enough grades (which is exactly what I did, no more).
I had been accepted to PSU’s main campus straight out of high school with a few small grants and no scholarships; I attanded the others for financial and basketball purposes (walked on the basketball team at Abington; recruited to Altoona – NCAA division 3 in sports).
My #1 motivation for going to college at all, was basketball.
Though I had no playing resume whatsoever by age 18, I had a belief that I could become a professional at it — and knew I needed four years of grooming and improvement to make that a reality (I graduated high school in 2000 – when jumping straight to the NBA was still an option). College would be the place to do so.
Some people choose to stay close to home for their college years. I was hellbent on getting away from home, for several reasons.
- Though the internet was not yet THE INTERNET in 1999, we still had television, movies and magazines. I knew there was a wide world of people, opportunities as experiences out there that I would never get to touch if I stayed in Mt. Airy, or even Philadelphia. I wanted to immerse myself in new environments and new people, namely…
- Girls. Black people, at least from the stats I quickly Googled in writing this, make up only ~12% of the American population. I grew up around, and up to age 18, my friends were only Black people. I’d been involved with only Black females. This fact wasn’t a drawback — I love Black folks — but I know the world was bigger.
I watched TV. I read magazines. There, I saw a ton of Black, Brown and fair-skinned women who looked damn good (at least on camera). They looked like they were having fun. They were in environments that looked a lot different from my neighborhood. I wanted to meet these females. I could always come back to Mt. Airy when I got around to it.
(My current love interest is European.)
- Freedom. My parents were super strict when it came to keeping tabs on their children (my sister is a year older than me). We couldn’t go outside on school days. Mom always went to the parent-teacher conferences — even in high school when it was optional. I never had a curfew in high school because I never left the house at night. I needed to get as far away from these restrictions as I could.
So now you know me.
Here’s what happened in college.
Upon first arriving at Altoona knowing no one, yet with all these people around me, I did what I had come there for. I found the basketball gym and play basketball. One day early in the Fall semester, a teammate named TJ came to my dorm room, inviting me to come to an off-campus party with a couple other teammates.
At age 19, this was one of the first times in my life that I’d been invited to a party. It was completely foreign territory.
I turned down the offer, explaining to TJ that I needed to study, and that I had an 8 AM class the next day. Both true, but not the real reasons I said no. The fact was, I didn’t know how the college social life thing worked. And I didn’t trust anyone enough to let them show me the ropes. I was a very closed-off kid at 19.
TJ continued trying to persuade me, to no avail. He finally left, leaving me with one of the wisest pieces of advice I’ve ever received.
You can’t just stay in your room all the time, man — you gotta go out and do stuff.
But, closed off as I was, I did what I was comfortable with: stayed in my room, aside from basketball and class, and studied. That resulted in me making the Dean’s List twice as a sophomore, an accomplishment that has done nothing for me since it happened. The girls I met were just like me — closed-off, new to Penn State Altoona, didn’t know anyone, and not very socially inclined.
In the second half of Spring semester, after basketball season ended, something happened.
I started meeting people.
With basketball season over and no more practice commitments, I felt it was finally OK to loosen my schedule a bit. People on campus knew of me from being on the hoops team and pickup games. In this way, people I didn’t really know invited me to places I didn’t know existed and I was (surprisingly) warmly welcomed. Good thing I’d decided to finally see what college life had to offer.
When it came to females, college life offered a lot.
Over the next two years-plus, my major changed from Business Management & Marketing to Basketball and Socializing.
[The latter are what built everything I’ve done sine college. When I say everything, I mean 100%. ]
From then-on, I did just enough schoolwork to get passing grades. I made it through several classes without even buying the required textbooks (another college scam that’s for another post).
On a website called BlackPlanet.com, I met a girl who attended the main Penn State campus in State College. I drove up to meet her and she took me to a State College party – an eye opening experience that showed me just how much I was small-timing it in Altoona.
[dt_quote type=”blockquote” layout=”left” font_size=”big” animation=”none” size=”1″]… She took me to a State College party – an eye opening experience that showed me just how much I was small-timing it in Altoona.[/dt_quote]
I made some closer friends from the basketball team, and let their social skills and networks of contacts rub off on me.
Some of said teammates had girlfriends (or close-to-girlfriends). Here’s why that matters: girls always have other friends.Girls *always* have other friends. Click To Tweet
Some were more open to the college life experience — I went with them to parties and let them introduce me to who they knew.
The bottom line of it all: My last two years of college, when I did minimal school work (but still graduated on time), played ball, and spent all the rest of my time socializing or scheming to socialize (i.e. parties and girls), were easily the most most valuable of my four college years.
I don’t believe in regrets. But if I had it to do over again, I would spend even less time studying material that has no bearing on my professional life, and MUCH more time hanging with friends, getting girls and partying.
[dt_quote type=”blockquote” font_size=”big” animation=”none” background=”plain”]I would spend even less time studying material that has no bearing on my professional life, and MUCH more time hanging with friends, getting girls and partying.[/dt_quote]
Here’s why you need to party MORE in college
- The most valuable resource you’ll get from college: RELATIONSHIPS. Read: people who know, like and trust you that you have some history with.I was at a conference two summers ago where there was a panel discussion titled “Does a Harvard Business degree still matter?” All five panelists were HBS grads, which impressed me. Upon asking them if college was still useful for current college-aged kids, the panelists all answered in the affirmative, pointing to the relationships HBS offered as the most valuable resource they took from college.Some things, like candy, offer less returns the more of it you have. There is no downside to having more and more relationships.
Any story I read in which people on their deathbed get interviewed, one of the top regrets is always I wish I had kept in touch with my friends, or I wish I had had the guts to be who I wanted to be and do what I wanted to do. Who says, I wish I had studied more in college? NO ONE!
[dt_quote type=”blockquote” font_size=”big” animation=”none” background=”plain”]Who says, I wish I had studied more in college? NO ONE![/dt_quote]
The biggest value of being on a college campus is that you’re surrounded by people who are like you: (usually) young, forward-thinking, voluntarily looking to better themselves in some way, and you’re all in the same physical location. Take it from me: You will NEVER have this concoction happen organically again in life. It’s a struggle for me these days to find even FIVE people who fit the above description (even if you take out the “young” part – depending on what you consider to be young).
Your time in college will not be measured by your GPA – a number that absolutely no one outside of your campus will ever care about. It will be measured by how many people you can call on for help when you need it (and you WILL need it) — and how many can call on you.
- Social skills can do what book knowledge cannot. The best thing I got out of diving into the college social scene was learning how to talk to, relate to, and persuade different people.College may be the last place you are in such a melting pot of diversity in terms of race, class, religions and cultures. The social skills I learned then and have polished since are the key to what I’ve achieved after college. I learned how to sell myself (which got me a pro basketball career), how to articulate my points (which is damn near everything I do now, after basketball), how to make people feel comfortable (or uncomfortable, when necessary), and how to make people feel part of the group (a key leadership skill).Anyone I know or have read from who runs a business always says, hire for attitude and teach for skill. No one wants to hire a genius who is unfriendly and can’t talk to people. I’d rather hire a Super-likable person with an A+ attitude who knows nothing about the job, than an expert who’s such an asshole/bitch that I’d never associate with him/her outside of work.
You can make opportunities with agreeableness and rapport-building skills that your ability cannot create.You can make opportunities with agreeableness and rapport-building skills that your ability cannot create. Click To Tweet
A lot of the jobs that exist when you start school will be being done my microchips when you finish school. One thing, at least for now, that computers don’t have — and your hireability will depend on — are soft skills. Get you some. Actually, get you a lot.
- Reading books is great. Reading people is greater. If you want to see a person open up and let their guard down, there are two surefire ways to do so.A) Get them angry
B) Get them really happy.When we celebrate, dance, and are around friends, vibing to the atmosphere, the music and the refreshments (wherever they may be), we’re having fun. We share things we wouldn’t share otherwise. We smile. We laugh. We make jokes. Life is good.
When we’re in class, at work, or anyplace “serious,” our guard is up. Our words are filtered. We know we’re being observed. When we celebrate, we don’t worry about that, even if the observation is present. We’re more open to the moment. We will do, try and say things we wouldn’t under other circumstances.
For your personal success is life, you must learn to see through the facades people put up for most of their waking hours. Learn to spot a lie or a truth when you hear one. Learn to read explanations, separating a good reason for some action from the real reason. To know whether someone genuinely likes you, or they’re just being polite. The difference between a person really not having time vs. when they’re just trying to get rid of you nicely.
I’m not saying that going to a frat party will teach you all of this – but you will learn what an open, guard-down person looks like vs. their I-know-I’m-being-evaluated-persona. This skill is a major key.
- Your grades don’t matter anyway. The purpose of college is NOT to get a degree (unless your future profession requires one). The purpose of college is to prepare you for your adult life.Personally, I went to college for four years to get four years of basketball and People Skills improvement under my belt. You may be there to lay the groundwork for the next great idea that will dent the universe. The fact is, with very few exceptions, no one in the professional/business world will care what grades you achieved in school.As a matter of fact, most of the time, people you do business with don’t even care if you went to school — and if they do care, do you know why? Because maybe they went there too, or know someone who did, and that common ground will help build a relationship.
Your college GPA will not make you money. It will not win friends or influence people. After college, your grades will be nothing more than arbitrary numbers collecting dust. People will hire or work with you not based on what you know, but what you can do with what you know, and, hopefully, who you know who can help the company.Your college GPA will not make you money. It will not win friends or influence people. Click To Tweet
In the “real world,” what matters are production and relationships — what you can do, and who you know who can do what you/we cannot. That’s it.
[dt_quote type=”blockquote” font_size=”big” animation=”none” background=”plain”]In the “real world,” what matters are production and relationships — what you can do, and who you know who can do what you/we cannot. That’s it.[/dt_quote]
Rebuttal: “Party More in College? Dre, That’s Stupid!!”
Someone is reading this right now, thinking that I’m wrong. That’s great; you’re entitled to an opinion. Let me show you how I’m never wrong, by refuting your points before you make them.
- I can do all you’re talking about in the daytime, without being out late or getting drunk!!I never said anything about alcohol or even what time is was (though most parties I attended were at night). You think you can build relationships in extra-curricular groups, volunteer charity events and in study sessions for chemistry class.
Thing is, there’s an entire population of people, who would be great people for you to know in the future, who will NEVER be in any of those places.To meet them, you have to be where they’re at. Part of the skill of building rapport with people is your ability to meet them where they’re at — mentally and physically.
If you want to make friends with a pastor, attend church. Wanna get cool with an athlete? Join a gym. Want To meet fashion bloggers? Go To the mall. You want to know as many people in as many diverse fields as possible. Which requires you to, as TJ advised me in my dorm room, loosen the restrictions on what you won’t or don’t do and see how the other side lives.
Hey, you might like it!
- I know and have heard of people who partied in college… and partied their way right out of college too! What about them?What about that? Good point.
Here is where wisdom — knowing when to use and when not to use what you know — comes into play.
Notice there’s nothing in this article about study habits, passing exams, getting a job or practicing basketball skills — yet I have a bachelor’s degree, have worked 20+ jobs before starting my business, and played 9 years of professional basketball. The admission that I should’ve partied more in college does not mean that I wouldn’t have still played ball and graduated.I wasn’t staying out until 4AM the night before an 8AM practice or class. I wasn’t getting drunk during finals week. I was in full control of my actions at all times. “Partying” does not equal “out of control, always drunk, no discipline or sense of responsibility.” It means having more fun, socializing more, and meeting more people in their comfort zones, on their level (and maybe yours, too).“Partying” does not equal “out of control, always drunk, no discipline or sense of responsibility.” Click To Tweet
And the fact is, in my college experience, the most socially inclined people party!! I should have known more of those people. Look around at your social circle and see for yourself. I’m not an either-or guy — I believe in both-all-everything. You don’t have to trade one for the other. What you do have to do, though, is change your limiting beings about what you’re capable of and of who you are.
The conclusion of this is just as the title says: You should party MORE, not less, in college. It’s your last chance to do so with no real life responsibilities on your back. You’re surrounded by people you’ll want to know ten years from now.
And remember the people on their deathbeds — you cannot make an old friend.
Questions? Comments? Anything to add to my lists? Speak out below. I read them all.